In Double Feature, we’re presented with back-to-back stories related to the movie industry. The first, “A Travesty”, follows film reviewer Calvin Thorpe, as he tries to cover up a murder by staying out of the path of a pair of detectives as well as a blackmailer. The second, “Ordo”, focuses on a man who discovers his long-lost wife has become a Hollywood bombshell.
“A Travesty”, the first of the two stories, takes up about three quarters of the book. Westlake produces a bumbling yet seemingly clever protagonist in Carey Thorpe who consistently evades suspicion despite a litany of bad choices. I can’t decide if he’s just cocky or at times completely oblivious to his actions. Maybe it’s a little of both. In fact, there’s a choice he makes mid-way through the story that was so unbelievably stupid and short-sighted that I wanted to cry-out, “OH, COME ON”. What he did was even more mind-boggling considering he showed that he could be a rather brilliant detective as he helped the two detectives assigned to the murder he was involved in solve a handful of other murders! I guess it was a case of “rules for thee, not for me”.
The second story, “Ordo”, is a philosophical look at the idea of identity and how we sometimes have to completely change ourselves in order to get what we want out of life. Despite its much shorter length compared to the first story, I thought it was the stronger of the two. The main character, Ordo, struggles with the thought that the woman he knew sixteen years prior is someone he no longer recognizes whereas he has not changed in the slightest. This story hit me particularly hard given its deeply introspective subject matter and its emotional finale.
Hard Case Crime continues to be one of my favorite publishers going today and I commend them for unearthing and publishing some of the most interesting work from a by-gone era.